First Man: You'll Never Look at The Moon The Same Way Again
After the groundbreaking successes of Whiplash and La La Land, Damien Chazelle takes us to the moon and back in First Man. The film stars Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and tells the story of NASA's first moon landing, albeit one of the most famous achievements in recent history, its personal and technological challenges have remained rather obscure.
First Man is set in the 1960s, a decade full of turbulent times. Damien Chazelle accentuates the rivalry and intensity of the race to the moon between the US and the Soviet Union, however what is worth noting here is that the film aims for something higher, something more profound, that perhaps today's big franchises lack— subtle heroism.
Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong with a quiet intensity and highly drivenness that makes the film far more affective. Unlike some of Armstrong’s peers, he doesn't see the need to boast about his mission, but rather focusses on its challenges to make it a successful one. The film is a tearjerker, but not in the usual fashion. Damien Chazelle chooses to tell these personal moments subtly and in just one or two scenes with highly affective results, synonymous to Armstrong's characteristics.
Claire Foy gives an excellent performance as Armstrong's wife, Janet, who is left behind when her husband embarks on the flights. While Janet is not physically with Armstrong on these flights, she persistently follows the endeavours and is there as a supportive core. She powerfully holds the family together even though at times she is absolutely terrified her husband might never return. Claire Foy manages to perfectly capture the rather strange blend of pride, dread and frustration she feels at being married to an astronaut.
"How are we gonna land on the moon, if we can't even make the radios work?" questions one of the astronauts as the radio cuts in and out. There is no doubt that the threats are real in the film and Damien Chazelle doesn't shy away from turning it to eleven. The world feels authentic, the spaceships are almost made of rusty old iron and space travel is anything but a smooth ride. This intensity is highlighted even more through the cinematography and sound design, you're right there with Armstrong and crew as they lift off, at times you see and hear what they do from their perspectives, making the film exceptionally immersive. The lunar scenes are incredible in IMAX and you are right there on the moon surface. Justin Hurwitz's unique score for the film does not disappoint either. It is hauntingly beautiful and powerful as you embark on this turbulent journey.
“I don't know what space exploration will uncover, but I don't think it will be exploration just for the sake of exploration. I think it will be more for the fact that it allows us to see things, that maybe we should have seen a long time ago. But just haven't been able to until now.”
First Man meticulously aims for the higher ground at every level in an authentic manner and is all the more inspirational for it. You'll never look at the moon the same way again.
In Cinemas and IMAX now.
Director: Damien Chazelle | Writer: Josh Singer | Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbott, Ciarán Hinds, Corey Stoll. PG-13 | 141 mins